Why homestays are the best hotel option in India

Prakash Kutir, homestay, Delhi, BnB, guest house, hotel, India, travel, woman, solo, safe

Celebrating Diwali with the Gupta family at Prakash Kutir

To experience India, I recommend home stays

I WAS LUCKY. When I first arrived in India back in December 2005, a friend-of-a-friend picked me up at the airport in Delhi and drove me to his family home. There, he lived with his parents and his brother’s family – a typical Indian, three-generation, extended family home. So, from literally my first day in India, I lived with an Indian family.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travelOver time, the man who picked me up at the airport became my boyfriend, and his family became my Indian family. I always lived with them in South Delhi until we broke up a couple of years ago. I credit this experience with giving me much more insight into Indian culture than the average tourist or ex-pat.

When I lived with my Indian family, I was expected to follow the rhythms and customs of the house and, in essence, become Indian. I ate Indian food three times a day, bathed with a bucket, took part in pujas, had to learn to live with servants, and to have way, way less privacy than I was used to … among many other “adjustments.”

It was an incredible learning experience and I feel very blessed for having this family sanctuary in India for so many years. I am so grateful to this family for giving me a safe harbour. They’re probably the reason I was able to keep coming to India, and building my career as a travel writer and blogger. I am very grateful, and thankful. Read this post: Finding the real India on my 8th trip

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel, food, Indian

A home stay feast at Prakash Kutir. The best Indian food is home food!

Experience family life in India at a home stay

So, now, when I travel in India and when I’m in Delhi, I try and stay at home stays as much as possible. It’s partly because I now feel so comfortable in an Indian home. And there are several other reasons, too. Staying in an Indian home gives you direct access to the single most important organizing institution in India: the family. India really is a family oriented culture. We pay lip service to family values in the west, but in India, the family is everything. To understand India, you have to understand the importance the family plays in the culture.

Other good reasons to stay in an Indian family home are the feelings of comfort and safety, and the opportunity for home food. Hospitality is a bedrock value in India, where the phrase “Atithi Devo Bhava” – Guest is God – is often amply demonstrated. In my opinion, home food is the best food in India. So this combination of warm hospitality and delicious food is very appealing.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel

View from my terrace at Prakash Kutir

Prakash Kutir: My home in Delhi

I get all of this, and more, at Prakash Kutir, the bed-and-breakfast home stay that I now call my home in Delhi. I was originally invited to experience Prakash Kutir when my colleague Barbara Wiebel of the excellent travel blog, Hole in the Donut. Together, we celebrated Diwali 2016 with the Gupta family: Ajay, Savita, Sagar, and their grandmother.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel

Savita Gupta on Diwali

I felt at home with this warm and wonderful family immediately. Shortly after meeting them, I was sitting at the home mandir, performing the Lakshmi (Diwali) puja and feeling right at home. It’s been the same ever since.

Prakash Kutir is a perfect example of a top-notch home stay in India and by profiling it, I can share with you how special this experience is. My aim is to convince you to have a homestay experience while travelling in India.

Here are the top 5 things I love about Prakash Kutir.

  1. The Gupta family

The number one reason is easy, it’s the Gupta family. I would love to say they are special – and they are – but the truth is many Indian families are similarly warm. I have long talks with Ajay about life, politics, and business. I go out on excursions in Delhi with Sagar, who is learning the business, and we talk a lot about tourism and digital marketing … and much more. He is like a little brother to me! Savita is the rock-solid centre of the family, and an absolutely fabulous cook. She cooks with care, simplicity and a touch of magic. Every dish seems perfect, and I think it’s because they are all made with real love.

The Guptas are real people, not slick professionals. But they run they run their home-based business with an attitude of dedication and warmth that is really hard to beat. Personally, I would always choose caring over luxurious. I know I can count on the Guptas for anything I might need. Because they’re locals, they know the answer to every dilemma: where to find a good tailor, how to get to Jaipur by bus, best place to exchange money, etc.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel

The area around Prakash Kutir is plush with parks and greenery.

  1. Location, location, location

Home stays are often in residential locations, away from the busy, touristy, expensive, commercial centres of Indian cities. This is a huge plus, in my opinion. In Delhi, especially, the tourist centres of town – Connaught Place, Pahar Ganj and Karol Bagh – are over-run with touts who prey on tourists, making them uncomfortable and expensive. South Delhi, by comparison, is leafy and residential and largely free from the negative aspects of tourism. It’s mostly an upscale region, dotted with markets, parks and even a few slick shopping malls.

Prakash Kutir is, in my opinion, in the perfect location in Delhi. I lived for years in nearby Panscheel Park, an exclusive enclave with no market or other services. By contrast, Prakash Kutir is in Hauz Khas, near the market. It is within a short walk to stores, restaurants, and the Hauz Khas metro. It’s also walking or autorickshaw distance from Hauz Khas Village, the trendiest area of Delhi. Perfectly situated on the yellow metro line, you get both the benefits of living in posh South Delhi with the convenience of getting to the centre Delhi, Rajiv Chowk / Connaught Place, in 20 minutes.

  1. The rooms and amenities

Home stays may be not be as luxurious as five-star hotels, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be as comfortable. In fact, in some ways they beat five-stars by offering amenities like kitchens and truly personalized service.

Prakash Kutir is actually the Gupta family home. The family live on the main floor, and the rooms are on the first and second floors. The home was completely renovated xx years ago, with rooms purpose built and carefully decorated to reflect a classical Indian style. All the rooms have their own washrooms, and some have changing rooms as well.

The first floor is actually an apartment, with three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. It can be rented out as an apartment, or piecemeal, one room at a time. The second floor has four rooms and a shared full kitchen. Two of the rooms share a charming, street-facing terrace.

Prakash Kutir, homestay, Delhi, BnB, guest house, hotel, India, travel, woman, solo, safe

My beautiful room at Prakash Kutir

  1. My room: A writer’s room

My room is number 3, and my favourite. It has a soaring window, a walk-out to the terrace and a mini-kitchen. I am completely at home in this room, which really does feel like my sanctuary in Delhi. I keep fruit and snacks in my fridge, make my own tea and can heat up food in the microwave. The excellent WiFi keeps me in business and the mini-kitchen means I can stat at home and work when I need to meet deadlines.

I have loads of room to do my yoga practise, either in the room, or on the terrace. I can stare out the window, climb up to the roof, watch the sun set and dream. My room at Prakash Kutir is a writer’s room, and gives me the kind of airy, spacious yet private atmosphere that creates an ideal condition for me to practise my art.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel, Prakash Kutir

Sagar, Ajay, me and Savita Gupta on an outing to the Mughal Gardens, Delhi

  1. Experiencing the real India

Many people – and by people, I mean foreigners – often talk and write about experiencing the “real India.” I find this a tricky concept as I think of it all as the real India. Some say staying in the grotty backpacker ghetto, Pahar Ganj, is the real India. Others say you can only find the real India in a village. While some prefer the kind of five-star luxury that India excels at providing.

For my money, the real India is staying in a residential neighbourhood with a family. As I mentioned above, the family is the mainstay of Indian culture, and by experiencing an Indian family, you are experiencing the real India.

Spending Diwali at Prakash Kutir with the Gupta family is a perfect example. I had always celebrated with my Indian family in Panscheel Park, and was missing this family experience. The Gupta’s daughter had recently married and they were missing her (as she was celebrating Diwali with her new family, as is the custom in India). So, together we helped each other make a “whole” family and it was a wonderful experience.

home stay, homestay, India, Delhi, hotel, women, budget, cheap, affordable, Hauz Khas, South Delhi, travel, Prakash Kutir

The terrace outside my room at Prakash Kutir home stay in Delhi

How to book a home stay in India

Home stays are becoming very popular in India, and you can find good ones all across the country. They are a natural fit in a culture that values hospitality as much as India. They also tend to be much more affordable than hotels.

NOTE: My stay is partially hosted by Prakash Kutir. As always, my opinions are my own, my stories are heart-felt and I only make recommendations based on personal experience and with the needs of my readers in mind.


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10 Responses to Why homestays are the best hotel option in India

  1. Chops March 17, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

    Good write up. Did like and agree with you. Have expletive of airb&b in Australia and newzealand. We did like.
    Will get back to you for home stay in canada Toronto just for a month.
    Regards
    Chops

  2. Rekha Khosla March 17, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

    Truly well said and heartwarming descriptions of the Indian family. Nice to read something positive rather than the usual brickbats India gets in the media!

  3. Renuka March 18, 2017 at 2:42 am #

    Thanks for including my blog post here. 🙂 I love home stays. I think they are definitely a better way of exploring a place. The best part is that you get to talk to a local and get interesting insights about their culture, way of life, etc. Glad to learn about your ‘home stay’ experiences!

  4. Dawn March 24, 2017 at 7:46 am #

    We went to India for the first time in September and stayed in home stays throughout Kerala. It totally made our trip. My best memory is of being invited to share the main Onam meal with the family – what a special experience.

  5. turkey travel journal March 31, 2017 at 9:52 am #

    I am a Turkish guy who loves his country because of it’s rich culture and beauty. I am certainly interested to see other countries and cultures but never felt so excited cause of the richness of my own country.
    If there is one country that i am excited about even before planning to travel, it’s india. So many different culture and religions live together.
    Thanks for this post. There is no better way then experiencing a culture than a home stay.

  6. Alex Steven April 4, 2017 at 8:14 am #

    Wow! this seems so beautiful and full of warmth. I am sure you must have received all the heartfelt love of the people around. Lovely pictures. All the best for your future trip!

  7. Ronnie Walter April 5, 2017 at 2:03 am #

    This so lovely and warm. Loved your clicks. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Reshma Narasing April 8, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    I couldn’t agree more on this with you. The best way to experience India first hand is staying with the locals, and what better way than homestays? Homestay is my preference always!
    Reshma Narasing recently posted..Valley of Flowers – A Tale of An Adventurous Trek To The Paradise of FlowersMy Profile

  9. Surendra Gehlot April 24, 2017 at 6:19 am #

    People are visiting get and exploring the developing country India for authentic experience. This is posible only through real connections with local people by home stay or staying with family run accommodation. This allows to not only to see the everyday life but help a lot to u derstand the culture under the skin. Travelling with giving back to communities also provide a true insights of life and culture apart from helping the underpreveleised and thus promoting responsible tourism.

  10. Juander Woman May 12, 2017 at 2:48 am #

    Definitely considering homestay on my upcoming trip to India! Love the photos. Thanks for this post!
    Juander Woman recently posted..Glamping with a Twist at San Rafael River AdventureMy Profile

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